Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/29

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21
FIBER INDUSTRIES OF THE UNITED STATES.

and with the employment of the finest labor-saving agricultural implements in the world, the conditions are again changed, and are now favorable for American agriculture to re-establish this industry, and to make good a declining foreign supply. Our farmers are ready for the work, but they have not only lost their skill and cunning in producing the straw and preparing the fiber for the spinner, but new and more economical methods must be adopted to place the culture on a solid basis.

PSM V54 D029 Hackling flax.jpg
Hackling Flax.

A million acres of flax are grown for seed annually, but the growth of flax for seed and flax for fiber are two very different things; moreover, Old World methods do not coincide with the progressive ideas of the educated farmers of the United States, for the peasant class does not exist in this country. A practice essentially American must be followed in order to make the culture profitable, and to equalize the difference in wages on the two sides of the Atlantic. This difference is more apparent than real, for it can be readily overcome by intelligently directed effort, by difference in soil fertility and rentals, and especially by the use of certain forms of labor-saving machines that already have been devised and are being rapidly improved. The "American practice," then, means, first, an intelligent practice, with a view to economy of effort and involving the use of machinery in the place of plodding foreign methods; and, second, the co-operation of farm labor and capital to the end of systematizing the work—i. e., the farmers of a community growing the flax, and capital, represented by a central mill, turning the straw when grown into a grade of fiber that the spinners can afford to purchase. Here is the solution of the flax problem